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If you have not received the notice of a forthcoming event by email, please register your interest in the week preceding it by emailing the Secretary on margaret@aej-uk.org

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Brexit

EU withdrawal bill passed
The UK Parliament has approved the Conservative government’s EU withdrawal bill, paving the way to Brexit by converting all applicable EU laws into UK law. Very narrowly. Without clear language to allow detailed parliamentary scrutiny of whatever deal – or no deal – is agreed with the EU. Without the support of 6 rebel MPS from the governing Conservative party  - but with the support of 4 opposition Labour MPs who are longstanding supporters of Brexit. Without complete cabinet solidarity on the government’s approach to Brexit negotiations. Without clarity on a number of outstanding key issues such as the UK’s future customs relationship with the EU and the Irish border. And without even a hint of consensus on how to interpret all the political manoeuvring. Prime Minister Theresa May has called a cabinet meeting on July 6 at her country retreat Chequers to seek agreement on a Brexit negotiating position. Opponents of Brexit held a massive protest march in London marking the second anniversary of the referendum on 23 June - organizers said they drew 100,000 people. There was also a much smaller rally nearby in support of Brexit which included members of UKIP (the UK Independence Party) and far right groups such as White Pendragons and Generation Identity.

In a week of high political drama the government defeated a final amendment on June 20 to allow MPs a “meaningful vote” on the final Brexit deal by 319 votes to 303. It was the second time in a week that MPs voted on this issue. And it was the second time in a week that Prime Minister Theresa May was forced to offer an assurance to a small group of Tory MPs who threatened to vote against the government unless there was clear language on a “meaningful vote.” The first time she headed off the revolt in the final hours by personally giving assurances to the rebels – they said. But almost immediately other cabinet ministers said no promises or concessions were given – only a promise of further discussions. The second time she headed off the revolt – again in the final minutes - after convincing leading rebel Dominic Grieve with an assurance that the parliamentary Speaker could decide if MPs get a “meaningful vote” on Brexit. Again cabinet ministers immediately said no concessions were made. It was the final act allowing the government’s withdrawal bill through. But it’s far from the final act in the Brexit saga as Mrs. May faces a number of other Commons votes on Brexit issues, one expected within just a month on possibly the biggest core issue of Brexit – what kind of customs relationship to have with the EU.

For more, with varying interpretations, on the latest events please see these sites:

https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu/may-faces-down-pro-eu-rebel-lawmakers-to-win-brexit-vote-idUKKBN1JF3AF

https://www.theguard.com/politics/2018/jun/20/lead-tory-rebel-dominic-grieve-accepts-brexit-meaningful-vote-compromise

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6585626/pm-theresa-may-survives-brexit-vote-with-pledge-to-rebels/

http://www.irishnews.com/news/brexit/

https://www.politico.eu/article/brexit-negotiation-theresa-may-swerves-to-avoid-crunch/

https://news.sky.com/story/brexit-moves-from-procedure-to-substance-11411631

Mrs. May in fact got her withdrawal bill through virtually unchanged, winning every vote in the House of Commons on amendments proposed by the upper House of Lords. Only a month earlier, the Lords ended three months of detailed examination of the withdrawal bill with defeats to the government in 15 major votes  - votes that showed the deep divisions in both Conservative and Labour ranks over what deal the UK should seek in negotiations with the EU. The Lords amendment on the meaningful vote would have allowed Parliament, not just cabinet ministers, a potentially decisive say over Brexit – power to stop the UK from leaving the EU without a deal or make Theresa May return to negotiations. This amendment was approved by 335 votes to 244, fleshing out an earlier House of Commons vote in December forcing the government to guarantee Parliament a meaningful vote. The Lords also challenged the government and members of the House of Commons with amendments for the UK to remain in a customs union with the EU and in a form of the single market, the European Economic Area. Hard-line Brexiters see either one as a betrayal of the close 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU. Business voices have called for the closest possible alignment with EU rules to avoid severe harm to the economy; and the Irish government and the EU are sticking to their demands on the Irish border as is Northern Ireland’s DUP which has been providing the Conservative government with a tiny voting majority.  When the Lords began second-reading examination at the end of January one of the biggest concerns of opponents in both the opposition and governing party was what they saw as an attempted power grab by the May cabinet – giving themselves powers to avoid parliamentary scrutiny and use the legislation to weaken or destroy employment, environmental, equality and human rights protections. The Conservatives have the largest number of Lords but no majority and can be outvoted by opponents. As the unelected Lords handed them defeat after defeat, the Tory right and its supporters in the national press ramped up attacks on the bastion of conservatism and the establishment they had historically defended and protected. The Lords began examining the bill after the House of Commons voted to approve it 324 to 295 on January 18 2018, four months after narrowly voting to allow more debate on it. The vote was 326 to 290. The UK and EU began historic talks on June 19 2017 over British plans to leave the EU. Please see these links for more:

https://www.politico.eu/section/brexit/

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/eu-referendum

http://www.politico.eu/article/uk-eu-begin-brexit-talks/
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-06-19/brexit-talks-begin-with-u-k-in-turmoil
http://www.politico.eu/article/whos-who-in-the-brexit-talks/

 

Theresa May’s election gamble backfires
The newspaper headlines said it all on the morning after the 2017 UK election. Prime Minister Theresa May lost 13 seats and in the coming months possibly her own job. She was forced to lose her two long-time key advisers who designed the Conservative election manifesto, ran her office and in effect her management of the government for the past year, leaving her even more vulnerable to pressures inside her party. Her Conservative party won the largest number of seats in Parliament – 318 – but lost its Parliamentary majority. So she had the opportunity to form a new government but faced anger and opposition inside her own party and minimal likelihood of much support from outside it. The result raised questions not only about Mrs. May’s own future but also about the stability of the UK government, its ability to negotiate Brexit, and its very competence to govern. If her new Conservative government fails to work then it is possible that the leader of the next largest party, Jeremy Corbyn of Labour, will be asked to form a government. A number of Labour policies have been echoed by nearly all the other opposition parties but even if all of their MPs joined an alliance they would still not have an overall majority. No single party in this Parliament has an overall majority – more seats than all other parties combined – quaintly called in the UK a “hung Parliament”. In many other countries it is simply known as a minority government which can often govern for significant amounts of time with or without formal coalitions. Many commentators are expecting another election long before the current statutory 5 years. For the moment Mrs. May has said she will work with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party which won 10 seats in the UK Parliament. Most observers do not expect this to work for long – the DUP is a socially conservative party with positions on abortion, gay rights and climate change that are inconsistent with UK law, has close historical ties to the Protestant community, and is a key partner in the Northern Ireland peace agreement in which the UK government is supposed to be a neutral arbiter.
When Mrs. May called the surprise election for June 8, she claimed she needed the support of the country in her negotiations for British exit from the European Union.  There was little discussion of Brexit during the 7-week campaign and no more detail on her plans for negotiation. Throughout the campaign she constantly repeated the mantra that voting for her meant “strong and stable” government. Halfway through the campaign she was already being mocked instead for being “weak and wobbly” – most especially when she reversed her manifesto position on social care for the elderly and later for refusing to debate other party leaders.  When she called the election, all four opposition parties with seats in Parliament – Labour, the Scottish National Party, Liberal Democrats and the Green party – accused her of opportunism, trying to take advantage of a massive lead in public opinion polls despite her repeated previous statements that she would not call an election before the 5-year fixed term ran out in 2020. There were also suggestions of her trying to avoid political damage from possible criminal charges over Conservative election expenses in 2015 and 2014, and her need to resolve long running struggles inside her own Conservative party between so-called moderates and hardliners on Brexit and a number of other social and political issues. Many observers and commentators echoed those points including the AEJ-UK’s own recent guest Jim O’Neill, former Conservative Treasury minister and former chief economist of Goldman Sachs who coined the term BRICs. Mrs. May had a massive lead of more than 20 points in public opinion polls when the election was called and most politicians of all parties and most mainstream journalists and commentators expected her to win with the only question being the size of her landslide. However Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn outperformed all expectations with an increasingly popular campaign, clever strategy and tactics particularly targeting young voters, and a manifesto that turned out to have broad appeal despite being the most left-wing in decades, calling for higher taxes on the rich and re-nationalisation of the railways, the post office and utility companies. The campaign cut the polling lead to a few points by voting day and won Labour 30 more seats – their biggest gain in 20 years - and about 40 per cent of the vote, more than Tony Blair won in 2005 and just over half a million votes less than Blair’s 1997 landslide. This all may further secure his position as party leader and support his team’s desire to reposition the Labour party further left of the political centre. But it is not clear if it has changed either the doubts or opposition of many of his MPs who tried to distance themselves from Mr. Corbyn during the election campaign and may continue trying to undermine him. The Liberal Democrats campaigned largely for a second referendum on Brexit trying to target voters who wanted to stay in the EU – winning 4 more seats but seeing their vote share go down 0.5% to 7.4% of total votes.
And the SNP lost 21 of the 56 seats they won in a near sweep in 2015 as both Labour and Conservatives positioned themselves to oppose any second referendum on Scottish independence.
Ultimately this election has re-opened major splits in the Conservatives, probably failed to resolve splits in the Labour party, delayed any direct resolution of Scottish independence, and thrown the course of Brexit into serious doubt.
Standings after this election in the 650-seat UK Parliament are:
Conservatives 318
Labour 262
Scottish National Party 35
Liberal Democrats 12
Democratic Unionist Party (Northern Ireland) 10
Sinn Fein  (Northern Ireland) 7
Plaid Cymru (Wales) 4
Green Party 1
Other 1

The Brexit voting saga
On March 13 the lower House of Commons voted 498 to 114 in a final vote to allow Prime Minister Theresa May to invoke Article 50 and begin the process of leaving the European Union. Before the final vote, the Commons rejected two amendments proposed by the upper House of Lords – voting 331 to 286 against a requirement for Parliamentary approval of any final deal – or no deal - with the EU; and 335 to 287 against requiring the government to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK within 3 months of triggering Article 50. The legislation was then passed by the unelected House of Lords and Roya1 Assent was given on March 16. On March 7 the House of Lords handed Prime Minister Theresa May a second defeat on the proposed law to leave the EU. The unelected Lords added two amendments before sending the bill back to the House of Commons. The upper house voted 366 to 268 to require Parliamentary approval of any final deal – or no deal - the government reaches in negotiations with the EU. It was the largest turnout ever in the history of the House of Lords. Earlier, on March 1, the Lords voted 358 to 256 to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK. This amendment would require the government to provide such guarantees within 3 months of triggering Article 50, the formal start of the process to exit the EU. The Conservative government says it does not want to undermine its Brexit negotiating position and claims unilaterally guaranteeing EU citizen rights in the UK without getting a reciprocal agreement could harm the interests of UK citizens. There are an estimated 1.2 milllion UK citizens living in the EU and an estimated 3.5 million EU nationals living in the UK. The issue of EU citizen rights has both moral and practical facets and a number of individuals and groups have expressed concern about the current uncertainty. Recent UK Home Office figures show a sharp rise in applications for permanent residence and the government itself admits more than 130,000 EU nationals applied for UK residency in the six months after the Brexit vote. Overall last year there were more than 200,000 applications  - double the previous record. In the Lords votes, the government tried to apply significant pressure including unusual appearances in the House by both Prime Minister May and Home Secretary Amber Rudd who also sent a personal letter to every single peer urging no changes to the bill. Right after its Lords defeat Theresa May fired a key rebel Conservative lord, former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine. There were also significant speeches by two former prime ministers – Labour’s Tony Blair and Conservative John Major – opposing Brexit and urging reconsideration of UK withdrawal from Europe. The Conservatives have the largest number of peers –252 –in the Lords but they are not a majority; Labour has 202 members, Liberal Democrats 102, and there are 178 Crossbenchers, officially unaligned with any political party.
On Feb. 8 the UK House of Commons first passed the Conservative government’s proposed law to exit from the European Union and send it to the Lords. MPs voted 494 to 122 to approve the government bill – a short 137 words allowing it to trigger article 50. MPs had only 3 days to debate the bill in detail and all attempts to amend it were rejected. The closest vote was 326 to 293 against an opposition Labour party amendment to give Parliament a meaningful vote on any EU agreement negotiated by the May government, an amendment now added to the bill by the Lords. The Brexit issue has shaken the political establishment, the public, and the entire framework of the UK since the referendum last June 23 in which 51.9% of voters across the UK chose Brexit and 48.1% rejected it. The May government has taken a strong position in favour of Brexit despite a small working majority in the 650-seat House of Commons - her party has been split on the issue of Europe for decades. The main Labour opposition party is riven on the Brexit issue – and a number of others – but has officially supported the start of the exit process, hoping to avoid further alienating the significant minority (an estimated 37%) of its supporters who voted to leave the EU in last year’s referendum. In the final Commons vote 52 of 229 Labour MPs defied party instructions to vote with the government. The Scottish National Party is unified in opposition to Brexit, wants to stay in the EU, was supported by more than 60% of Scottish voters in the referendum, and won a vote in the devolved Scottish Parliament 90 to 34 to oppose the UK government on Brexit. Its arguments for Scottish independence saw a boost in the opinion polls during the Brexit debate.
The UK Liberal Democrats – partners with the Conservatives in the coalition government preceding Mrs. May’s - officially oppose Brexit.
(See party standings)
Prime Minister May was forced to allow Parliament to vote by the UK Supreme Court. It upheld the supremacy of Parliament in a ruling on January 24, rejecting claims by May’s Conservative government that it could use executive powers and avoid consulting Parliament. In a historically rare occurrence, all 11 justices heard the landmark case and voted 8-3 against the government – full details are here from the Supreme Court and the Telegraph newspaper with multiple media reports available online such as the Independent, the Guardian, the Express and many others.
Besides having its refusal to introduce legislation on triggering Brexit overturned, the Conservative government was also forced to reverse its refusal to provide details on its Brexit plans after a potential revolt by some of its own MPs. Those plans were finally outlined in a white paper presented to Parliament on Feb. 2.
 

Brexit information resources
See here to monitor progress of the government bill, and for ongoing and up-to-date reporting see the Independent, the Guardian and other UK media.
Standings in the lower 650-seat House of Commons are:
Conservatives 330 MPs
Labour 229
SNP currently 54
Liberal Democrats 9
MPs representing Northern Ireland, Wales, the Greens, and independents 26
UKIP  0 - the UK Independence Party  which is considered to have provoked the referendum and the whole exit process has no MP  - it’s only MP was a Conservative who defected from the previous government before the 2015 election and quit UKIP to sit as an independent  on March 25 2017.
Vacant 1
Speaker 1

Please see here for membership of the House of Lords.

The Telegraph breakdown  of the preliminary Brexit vote in Parliamaent

For a breakdown of the referendum vote in different regions, constituencies and demographics please see these links:
https://medium.com/@chrishanretty/the-eu-referendum-how-did-westminster-constituencies-vote-283c85cd20e1#.qxkhwg24j

Wikipedia

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36616028

http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/find-information-by-subject/elections-and-referendums/past-elections-and-referendums/eu-referendum/eu-referendum-result-visualisations

 

 

 

2017

AEJ joins Turkish opposition march for justice
On June 17 
2017 AEJ Honorary Vice Chair and Turkey Representative L. Dogan Tilic joined an opposition march for justice. Turkey’s main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Began his march from Ankara to Istanbul following the arrest of Enis Berberoglu, an MP of his Republican People’s Party (CHP) and former editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper Hurriyet.

Helmut Kohl
The man who saw the reunification of Germany and himself as the master builder of a united Europe died on 16 June 2017. AEJ-UK chair William Horsley was the BBC’s Germany correspondent in the 1990s and had these reflections – broadcast on the BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent (at 6:22 in)- as the UK starts to leave Europe.

AEJ and World Press Freedom Day 2017
In the UK, AEJ UK chairman and international vice president William Horsley joined a panel debate focussed on women who risk their lives to report government abuse, civil conflict and religious intolerance in difficult regions of the world. The debate on May 3 2017 was sparked by the first screening in the UK of `Velvet Revolution’, which tells the powerful stories of six women journalists from the Philippines to Syria and Azerbaijan. The film’s executive producer, Indian journalist and film maker Nupur Basu, and Rebecca Vincent, director of the London bureau of Reporters Without Border, were among the speakers at Senate House, headquarters of the University of London, and hosted by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies in cooperation with the Commonwealth Journalists Association.
Please also see this article by William on the growing infiltration and takeover of media houses by state interests and others for dubious purposes.
For more on the AEJ and other media freedom organizations’ activity to mark World Press Freedom Day across Europe please see AEJ International website. Annual reports from media monitoring organisations show a further steep decline in media freedom and protection for journalists. 

Survey reveals widespread intimidation of journalists in both eastern and western Euope
The Council of Europe has published the results of the first large-scale survey of journalists across Europe. More than two-thirds of the 940 journalists taking part said they had experienced physical assaults, intimidation or harassment on account of their work in the past three years.  The AEJ’s Representative for Media Freedom and AEJ UK chairman William Horsley described the survey as a “wake-up call” to national governments in Europe to review their laws and practices to better protect press freedom. “This survey,” he added, “demonstrates how the increasingly hostile working conditions for journalists reflect dangerously repressive tendencies in states across east and west Europe, and a shrinking of the space for free speech and the proper scrutiny of state power.” See here for more on the survey conducted by experts from the University of Malta and supported by the AEJ, the European Federation of Journalists, Index on Censorship, International News Safety Institute and Reporters Without Borders. And here for the survey itself, also on the UK website.
At the same time the Council of Europe has released its annual report from the Council’s Secretary-General on the State of Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Europe. The report highlights a dangerous tendency towards “legislative nationalism”,  showing nearly half the Council’s 47 member states fail to satisfactorily guarantee the safety of journalists, with an increase in violence against journalists, criminalisation of the media’s newsgathering work, and growing threats to whistle-blowers and the ability of journalists to protect their confidential sources.

Analysis of media coverage – UK and USA
For an analysis of UK press coverage of the Brexit issue please see this link written by AEJ UK chairman William Horsley.
For a forecast of trends in journalism in 2017 see this analysis by the Reuters Institute.
And look at this detailed study in the Columbia Journalism Review on how the right-wing media in the USA changed both the U.S. election result and the broader media agenda.

European Human Rights Convention best guarantee for UK press freedom?
The head of the UK Independent Press Standards Organization (IPSO) – Sir Alan Moses – says the European Court of Human Rights provides the best guarantees and safeguards for press freedom in the UK, “better than any British courts”. And he told a journalistic audience that Fleet Street is thus “ill advised” to campaign to get out of the Council of Europe. The head of IPSO, a former Appeals Court judge, also applauded British press opposition to government attempts to create a government press regulator. See here for more on his presentation. IPSO – set up and supported by major British newspaper owners – is involved in an ongoing UK power struggle over media freedom and responsibility between major publishers, the government and critics of media abuses.  It was created after the 2011-12 Leveson Inquiry into scandals about abuses of media freedom and intrusion into individuals’ private lives. A number of major independent media- including The Guardian, The Financial Times, the Observer, the London Evening Standard, Private Eye, BuzzFeed, Yahoo, and the Huffington Post – have been unwilling to sign up to either IPSO or the government’s recently inaugurated press regulator.

RSF issues appeal on Turkish press freedom
Reporters Without Borders has appealed to EU leaders to do all in their power to rescue journalism in Turkey, where over 100 journalists have been jailed as suspected terrorists and over 700 press cards have been rescinded. On a trip to London, exiled Turkish newspaper editor Can Dundar warned that the coming referendum on changing the Turkish constitution could lead to the country becoming a dictatorship. 
Please see the AEJ International site for more.
If you would like to join or onpass the RSF campaign see this link.

Iris on media freedom
For analysis and ongoing reports particularly on video media and freedom of expression see the Iris network site – the European Audiovisual Observatory set up 25 years ago by the Council of Europe to compile statistics and analyse Europe’s tv, video and film industries including broadcast news.

Mediating Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump, fake news, and post truth.. for some reflections at the beginning of 2017 please see:

Open letter from White House press corps – from Columbia Journalism Review (courtesy of AEJ member Andrew Dobbie as is the CJR article below)
www.cjr.org/covering_trump/trump_
white_house_press_corps.php

The Coming Storm for Journalism – from Columbia Journalism Review
http://www.cjr.org/special_report/trump_
media_journalism_washington_press.php

Covering politics in post-truth America – from the Brookings Institution
https://www.brookings.edu/essay/covering-politics-in-a-post-truth-america/

The New York Times on fake news.

Who to blame for fake news -
http://billmoyers.com/story/whos-reallyto-blame-fake-news/

Prospects for the American press under Trump:
http://pressthink.org/2016/12/winter-coming-prospects-american-press-trump/

http://pressthink.org/2016/12/prospects-american-press-trump-part-two/

And prospects for journalism in 2017 from Nieman Labs:
http://www.niemanlab.org/2016/12/the-aberration-of-20th-century-journalism/

http://www.niemanlab.org/2017/01/whats-the-big-journalism-trend-for-2017-fear-oh-and-voice-news-bots/

 

2016

Fears for media freedom in Poland
AEJ Poland member Krzysztof Bobinski on the stand-off between journalists and the Polish government concerning plans to restrict the media’s physical access to parliament for reporting.  For more details see the AEJ International website.

Turkey post coup
"Turks love conspiracy theories" says
international consultant Mehmet Öğütçü – as do many people. Just returned from another frequent trip to Turkey, the former Turkish diplomat, OECD executive and now chairman of consultancy Global Resources Partnership provided a detailed and well informed briefing on the current state of Turkey at an AEJ-UK lunch on Nov.8. For more on this well attended and enlightening meeting please see this account from AEJ member Nevsal Hughes.

AEJ Resolution slams Turkey’s massive attack on journalists’ rights
Members of the Association of European Journalists, meeting at their annual General Assembly in Kilkenny, Ireland, condemned the ongoing systematic and relentless oppression by the Turkish government authorities against the media.  The AEJ also called on the Council of Europe, its member state governments, the European Parliament, the European External Action Service and the European Commission to exert their influence on Turkey’s government and parliament to cease arbitrary judicial proceedings, release all the journalists being held in detention for their work, and commit themselves unreservedly to honouring Turkey’s commitments to freedom of the press, free speech and the rule of law. The full text can be found here and a news article is here.

AEJ deplores governments’ hostility to private media
The AEJ general assembly meeting in Kilkenny, Ireland passed a resolution criticizing the economic, political and police pressure being put by certain Council of Europe member governments on privately owned media. Please see the full resolution here, noting problems particularly in Hungary, Poland and Turkey.

AEJ asks the EU to renew the Euranet Plus’ service contract
The AEJ general assembly meeting in Kilkenny, Ireland expressed its concern about the threatened termination of the Euranet Plus radio service for listeners across Europe. Please see here for more on the call for continuing support of the independent network of 18 radio stations in 16 countries and 14 languages reaching up to 22 million daily listeners which produces at least 75 minutes each week about EU news.

AEJ marks Day to End Impunity
The AEJ marked the UN-declared International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, on 2 November, with a statement: ‘Impunity kills. End Impunity!’ The statement, published here, calls on government authorities and all concerned to combat impunity with vigour and determination.

 AEJ deplores abrupt closing of leading Hungarian newspaper
The AEJ raised concerns about the sudden closure of Népszabadság, Hungary’s leading daily newspaper and one of the last critical voices in the country’s national media. The newspaper was suddenly closed on Oct. 8, prompting thousands of Budapest residents to take to the streets to protest at what many see as a new attack on press freedom in Hungary.  

AEJ calls for justice in the murder of Anna Politkovskaya
T
he AEJ joined a demand for open justice and renewed investigations by Russian authorities into the Russian journalist’s murder. Marking the 10th anniversary of Politkovskaya’s killing, the AEJ and 7 other journalistic and press freedom organizations also called for an end to impunity in the killings of other journalists in Russia. Politkovskaya was killed on Oct. 7 2006 in her Moscow apartment block – she had reported on numerous atrocities, torture and other human rights abuses in Chechnya. The AEJ is one of the partners with the Council of Europe in the online Platform for the safety of journalists. For more information see here.

AEJ in Council of Europe consultations on Turkey’s abuse of emergency laws
The AEJ and 7 other European journalistic and press freedom organisations met with the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe for intensive discussions about the critical situation for independent journalism in Turkey. In the wake of July’s imposition of a state of emergency, there were calls at the meeting in Strasbourg on Oct. 6 for urgent action by Turkish authorities, European governments and the Council of Europe to prevent torture and mistreatment, ensure the exercise of impartial and professional justice, and to end widespread abuse of the emergency laws. See the AEJ report and the Council of Europe statement for more information.

Turkish media freedom groups denounce ‘silencing’ of media
T
he G-9 Platform of media and press freedom organisations in Turkey issued a statement and appeal “A Coup Against Journalists” condemning the wholesale closures of media, detentions and sackings of journalists, and other oppressive measures taken under state of emergency laws in Turkey. The international AEJ fully supports the statement and appeal which can be found here.

Turkey Crackdown
For the latest information and alerts about violations of media freedom and attacks on the safety of journalists in Turkey please see Council of Europe’s Platform for the safety of journalists (www.coe.int). These alerts are sent directly and quickly to the state authorities in Turkey and other countries concerned. Their responses to allegations of violations are published on the platform. The AEJ is working closely on this day by day with the EFJ/IFJ, Article 19, Committee to Protect Journalists Index on Censorship, IPI and Reporters Without Borders. William Horsley, UK chairman and AEJ international Vice President and Media Freedom Representative, notes that “the arbitrary and sweeping arrests of journalists and closures of media outlets in Turkey are alarming and urgent. Many journalists who have not been arrested are obliged to lie low and not speak in public because of the dangers.” Horsley has an assessment of Turkey’s actions under the state of emergency on the international AEJ website. There is also a petition from Amnesty International calling on President Erdogan to uphold human rights in Turkey, even in a state of emergency. The petition here has options to sign - http://bit.ly/turkeyrights 

Celia Hampton
Sadly, Celia Hampton, our long-time secretary, treasurer and website editor, passed away on May 17 after a protracted illness.  Celia was a friend and colleague to many AEJ members and contributed an enormous amount to the AEJ in both the UK and internationally. Despite increasing frailty and ill health she continued to write regularly on her specialty legal matters before finally succumbing to the pulmonary illness which dogged much of her life in recent years. Please see our Obituaries section for more information and personal recollections.

World Press Freedom Day 
A number of AEJ national sections marked World Press Freedom Day on May 3 as reported on www.aej.org Several sections produced reports and the AEJ Turkey took part as a member of the G-9 Platform, Freedom for Journalists (www.aej.org)
The 2016 World Press Freedom Day conference in Helsinki on May 2-4 was marked by a clamour of voices calling on Europe to recognise its own failings. William Horsley, AEJ UK Chairman and International AEJ Representative for Media Freedom, has these reflections on the issues.

AEJ Greece awards Journalism Prize to Peter Kramer
The prize, made by the Greek section of the AEJ, was awarded to Peter Kramer, former AEJ Secretary-General. It was presented by HE Mr Prokopios Pavlopoulos, President of the Hellenic Republic, on 20 April. Congratulations to Peter, a great friend of ours. See www.aej.org and europeanbusinessreview.eu (1 May 2016)

Concern over Romania’s public broadcasting
A hasty reform of the legislation governing the heavily indebted public sector broadcasting organisation raised AEJ concerns. (10 March 2016)

EU to examine Poland’s highest court
The European Commission announced a preliminary assessment of the rule of law in Poland in light of the changes made to the Constitutional Court’s statute.

29 April: International criticism mounted against Azerbaijan’s prosecution of 15 journalists, including Khadija Ismailova and Shyrin Abassov, for tax evasion and illegal enterpreneurship. They were working for Meydan TV, an independent online media outlet based in Berlin but with a local news bureau. See www.aej.org

26 April: A growing number of foreign journalists were being denied entry, banned from entering Turkey or deported. GOP, the Turkish Freedom for Journalists Platform to which AEJ Turkey belongs, lodged a protest. See www.aej.org

14 April: The AEJ hailed the new set of political commitments to protect journalism and the safety of journalists adopted by the Council of Europe on 13 April. See www.aej.org, the text of the recommendation and the Council of Europe press release.

10 March: On 4 March, Turkey’s Freedom for Journalists Platform united in condemning the government’s seizure of the Zaman newspaper: “Such acts are not seen in democracies.”

13 January: The European Commission announced a preliminary assessment of the rule of law in Poland in light of the changes made to the Constitutional Court’s statute. While well aware of the media law and its potential to erode legal freedoms, the priority is to ensure that the judicial system is capable of enforcing them.

11 January: Polish President Andrzej Duda signed the media bill into law on 7 January. Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, had asked him to open a dialogue with the Council on article 10 ECHR before signing the bill. See aej.org. Die Presse has published the AEJ’s open letter to the Polish President. See aej.org

5 January:summary of AEJ action on the Polish law on public service broadcasting by the Media Freedom Representative.

 

 

 

2015

31 December: A survey by Politico’s Alex Spence catalogues the arrests, assaults, murders and legal restraints suffered by Europe’s journalists in 2015. “An awful year.” See aej.org

29 December: The AEJ has written an open letter to the new Polish government to abandon its proposal to place public service broadcasting under direct government control. See aej.org

9 December: An international declaration was published calling on governments to take decisive action to end murders and violent attacks directed at journalists. It was proposed by the IPI and backed by many in or representing the media, including the AEJ. See aej.org

30 November: The AEJ protested in the strongest terms against the arrest and detention of Turkish newspaper editors, Can Dundar and Erdem Gül, on charges alleging terrorism, spying and breach of official secrets. See aej.org (30 November 2015)

10 November: An exceptionally successful AEJ Congress was held on 6-7 November in Sibiu, Romania. The generosity of the Romanian Section as hosts is deeply appreciated by all, particularly as it is only four years since it last undertook this burdensome task. A comprehensive report of the congress appears on the AEJ’s international website, as does a report focusing on corruption. The dangers currently facing Europe are analysed by Anthony Robinson, former Eastern Europe Editor of the FT, in an article inspired by the debates at Sibiu. Media freedom reports by the AEJ sections are accessible on the Survey page on this site, and further documents are being added to this page and the Media Freedom and AEJ in Europe pages as they become available. Please also watch the international website’s News page for further developments.

10 September: The AEJ has expressed its solidarity with Hürriyet, the Turkish daily. On 8 September, its Ankara offices were attacked for a second time by a group of AKP and Erdogan supporters protesting against the paper’s reporting of the recent deaths of Turkish troops at the hands of the PKK. See aej.org

3 September: The AEJ joined other press freedom advocates in calling for a swift reversal of the conviction of Khadiya Ismayilova in Baku of various crimes of dishonesty and corruption and her 7½-year prison sentence. This politically motivated case has been followed on the new Council of Europe platform. See aej.org

2 September: Raids on opposition media, the arrest of a VICE News team and threat of further repressive action before Turkey’s election on 1 November have raised international protests. AEJ member Firdevs Robinson reports on this in Firdevs talks Turkey. See aej.org

1 September: Аn abrupt change in the regulations on who is able to carry a Turkish press card triggered strong reaction from the country’s professional journalists’ organisations. Journalist members of the committee that decides on eligibility were not consulted. The TGC journalists’ association and TGS union, withdrew their members: “There is no sense for us in remaining as extras.” See aej.org

2 August: New proposals for European governments to safeguard journalists from violence, intimidation and harassment were presented by the AEJ’s Media Freedom Representative to the 2 July meeting at the Italian Senate (below). They urge open accountable government and stronger adherence to human rights principles. See aej.org

2 August: Support for the work of Ossigeno, the media freedom organisation, was pledged at a meeting in the Italian Senate on 2 July. The Mafia’s threats of violence go largely unreported, but as many as 30 journalists live under permanent police protection. Ossigeno is working with the parliamentary Anti-Mafia Commission. See aej.org

23 July: International AEJ Newsletter

21 June: On 16 June, the Grand Chamber unanimously upheld an Estonian court ruling that an online news portal could not plead freedom of expression to escape liability for allowing defamatory or otherwise unlawful comments to be posted by readers. The AEJ joined the Media Legal Defence Initiative in expressing dismay at the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights. See aej.org

11 June: AEJ President, Otmar Lahodynsky, Otmar Lahodynsky has published a critique of the draft EU directive on trade secrets – a term that normally means proprietary knowhow. By extending legal liability to anyone publishing any secret business information obtained through a breach of confidentiality, it would seriously hamper investigative journalism. See aej-bulgaria.org

4 June: The European Commission has altered the conclusions of a 2013 study into EU financial support for selected investigative journalism projects (see press release). The study’s authors, a group of respected journalists and lawyers, conclude that there is a case for support. The version published by the Commission concludes that obstacles make the scheme unviable. A €1.5m budget line set aside for a trial has disappeared. MEPs are expected to ask the Ombudsman to investigate.

25 May: In the first six weeks, 50 alerts were posted on the Council of Europe’s new platform for the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists. It was presented to the press in Brussels on 19 May by CoE Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland. He also published the annual State of Human Rights in Europe report on that day. For the AEJ’s intervention, see aej.org

8 May: The AEJ has expressed its dismay at amendments to the draft directive on the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information. By restricting disclosure of internal company information, it could hinder investigative journalism into corporate conduct. See aej.org

20 April: The AEJ has called on the government of Ukraine to investigate the contract-style killing of Oles Buzyna, a pro-Russian, on 16 April. Buzyna was a former editor of Segodyna. Three other killings that call for proper investigation include two journalists and a former MP. See aej.org

15 April: The Association of European Journalists has expressed its grave concern about gratuitous verbal abuse and mockery directed against Romanian journalists Stelian Negrea and his wife, Eli Roman, by employees of the Antena 3 TV channel. See aej.org

2 April: The Council of Europe’s online reporting facility for threats to journalists and their safety was launched on 2 April. It can be viewed here (scroll down past the photograph). See also 28 November 2014 below, aej.org and Media Freedom

26 February: The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly adopted a new resolution on 29 January calling on various European countries, including the EU, to remedy violations of press freedom and fulfil their obligations to protect journalists. See aej.org

5 February: One of our most distinguished colleagues, Juraj Alner, has been granted the order of France's Légion d'Honneur. Juraj has been a journalist and scholar since 1964 but he was excluded from journalism for the 20 years leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall for being "anti-Communist". He was General Secretary of the international AEJ in the early 2000s and founder of the Slovak section. The President of France nominated him for his work on European integration and on Slovakia's accession to the EU. See aej.org

7 January: The AEJ expressed horror at the barbaric murders in Paris at Charlie Hebdo – the most bloody attack ever against French journalists and press freedom. It joined the French Section in expressing its deep condolence and solidarity with the victims' families and Charlie Hebdo's staff. See aej.org